For the past twenty-five years, I’ve been buying herbs from Fresh Herbs of Houston, which was founded by a Vietnamese woman named Pat, who came here back in the 1970s, and has been farming in Texas for many years. A decade ago, she asked me what special ingredients I might want for my menu and I answered flor de calabaza (squash blossoms). Pat has been growing squash blossoms for my restaurants ever since, and during the long summer season I buy more than a thousand of her blossoms each week. So, we two immigrants help each other.
I’ve heard that when we’re taking good care of ourselves, our bodies crave what they need. Well mine must need whatever is in this salad, because I find myself dreaming about it weekly! I’m also in a phase where I like to combine sweeter, richer foods like sweet potatoes and squash with a tart punch of citrus to balance things. This salad hits all of the right notes, and because it’s served at room temperature, you can make it the morning of and enjoy it all day long!
Falafels are the perfect plant-based morsel and a family favorite. However, in this salad, I’ve dismantled perfection and discovered a new, delicious way to enjoy the feted flavors of falafels—chickpeas, cumin, parsley, mint, and tahini. The crispy oven-roasted chickpeas are nothing short of incredible, and I encourage you to try roasting all types of beans in this manner.
This is a departure from my usual tomato salad, which is composed of little more than carved-up tomatoes, torn basil, salt, and olive oil. Daniel and I eat this simple salad almost every night in tomato season, since it takes about twenty seconds to assemble and has a juicy purity of tomato flavor that I can’t seem to get enough of this time of year.
In 2013, after we finished our second peach season, we took off on a five-month trip around the world, including six weeks in India. We zigzagged across the country, starting in Kolkata and ending in New Delhi, with a visit to Nepal along the way. One evening, on a rooftop in the northern city of Varanasi, we ate a peanut salad that we still think about to this day. Creating one for this cookbook felt special—a nod to that extraordinary trip and something that we really wanted to get right. We think we did. The Thai chile and basil, which can be found at your local Asian market; the fish sauce, which contributes complex salty flavors to the dish; the fresh fruits tumbled together with the crunch of peanuts—this is the magic you long for in a summery side dish.
On our travels in Bali, Jeremy and I stayed at a little resort that offered great cooking classes. In addition to local curries and rice dishes, the chef taught us this citrusy, simple salad, which has since become a staple at home. The combination of poached shrimp, tart grapefruit, spicy chilies, and fresh mint is bright and clean. Crunchy bean sprouts add terrific texture.
This is what I make for dinner practically every single night, tossing it with my hands so I can get a feel for the moment when the leaves are nicely coated with the dressing (though use utensils if you want to avoid olive oil on your fingers). You can use any salad greens you like; I tend to go for the dark, slightly bitter ones of the arugula/spinach variety, but this recipe will work with whatever you have in your fridge.
The first time I saw a Caesar salad served with quartered heads of lettuce, I was horrified! Since then, I have come to embrace the “lazy lettuce method,” as I now call it. While this isn’t a classic Caesar (it pains me to eat a salad with more calories and fat than a burger), it is a lovely variation, and the eggs make it a complete and rather filling meal.
Maple adds its woodsy sweetness to the sauce. Serve this over black, pink, or green rice for a visually stunning dish.
SHEPHERD’S SALAD | ÇOBAN SALATASI
Region: Bolu, all regions